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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

ENGINEERING AND FAMINE RELIEF            273

came first. Six months earlier he had petitioned for about $50,000 to
buy rice, of which the Hangchow district was entitled to one third.
The government gave the money, but Su Tungpo was deprived of the
proper share by a commissioner in the neighbouring district, a man
Kvho bore the poetic name of Yeh Wensou, or "Yeh Gentle-Old-Man".
Everybody had been interested in a share of the allocation when the
money was granted, but nobody would take steps now to report on the
true condition. In a confidential postscript to the Empress, Su said: "It
is the habit of officials to report only favourable information. They
have reported fully on the good weather conditions of March and April,
but no government official will do anything until a famine has actually
arived and people are actually dying." He then demanded that the
urt order a full investigation of all the affected areas. If his fear was
grounded, and if the other commissioners disagreed with him, they
ould be compelled to sign a report guaranteeing that in their opinion
a^ famine was not forthcoming and that people were not going to
starve next winter. There was one commissioner by the name of Ma
Chen. Su Tungpo had written again and again for a conference with
him because the work on the project required co-ordination of all dis-
tricts. But Ma had replied that he was busy with other things, and
his tour would keep him away from Hangchow until winter. In a
letter to another official in East Chekiang,.his good friend Chien Shieh,
said: "Can't you induce him [Ma] to come by telling him how
arvellous the Hangchow bore is to look at, and that he should pay us
visit in August? Put this as your own idea, and don't let him know
at it comes from me." In his July report Su Tungpo asked only
for a grant of 200,000 piculs of rice. The plan was very simple. As a
rich rice-producing district, Hangchow was required to send 1,250,000
to 1,500,000 piculs of rice annually to the capital. Hangchow was still
rich and could afford to pay the price of that amount. If it was only
permitted to keep part of this rice, Hangchow could send its equivalent
in silver and silks. A permit from the court to keep some of the rice
due to the imperial government and transfer it to the local granaries
was all that was needed.

Meanwhile, on July 21, 22, and 23, another big rainstorm broke out*
/^The rain stopped for a while on the twenty-fourth, but that night it
%>ured again.   Su Tungpo could not sleep, and the next morning he
wrote the "Report on Natural Calamity IF'. The flood in the lake dis-
trict was getting worse. Would the Empress please give his previous
report immediate attention? The courier system for official mail was
fair. It only took twenty days from Hangchow to the capital On August
4, the Empress received Su's first report and immediately acted upon
it.   As usual, it was passed from the premier's office to the ministry
of the interior with the request that a report be made on it within a